The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised consumers to switch to contactless payments as banknotes may be aiding the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

WHO said people should wash their hands after touching currency notes as the virus may stick to the surface for a number of days.

During circulation, currency notes change hands thousands of times and hence can accumulate all types of viruses and bacteria.

A spokesperson of the UN agency told The Telegraph: “We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses.

“We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face.

“When possible it would also be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission.”

The advisory comes after countries like China and Korea started disinfecting used banknotes.

To disinfect the bills, banks are using ultraviolet light or high temperatures and keep the cash stored for up to two weeks before recirculating them.

In response to the coronavirus epidemic, major American banking giants imposed restrictions on their employees’ international travel.

Banking groups that have curbed international travel without prior approval include Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs.

The epidemic has so far killed more than 3,100 people and infected more than 93,000 people around the world.